What Happens If You Kill A Queen Bee? Unraveling the Consequences and Impacts

What Happens If You Kill A Queen Bee?

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Within the honey bee colony, each member has his or her own role and they’re all very important. But without the queen, who is the only one to lay eggs, there’s a potential that the colony could fail. If you accidentally killed a queen bee then you’ll understandably be worried but what happens if you kill a queen bee?

When the colony loses its queen, it goes into a state of stress and the workers will quickly begin to raise several eggs that may become the new queen. This process can take up to two weeks.

In some cases, the loss of a queen can cause the collapse of the entire colony but this typically only happens where the colony is weak. In healthy, larger honey bee colonies, those weeks without a queen are merely a minor inconvenience.

What Is A Queen Bee?

Honey bee colonies are made up of tens of thousands of individuals. There are drone bees which are the males and whose sole job is to mate with the queen. Otherwise, the drones pretty much sit around doing nothing but while this might seem like a life of luxury, it’s worth noting that, after mating, they die!

There are also worker bees and these make up the largest portion of the colony. Workers are always female but they’re infertile and unable to lay eggs. Instead, they have several different roles including foraging, raising the young, and building honeycomb.

But there is one female who is considered to be the mother of the colony and that’s the queen. She is the only female member of the hive capable of laying eggs and in her lifetime, a single queen can lay up to 1 million eggs!

After she becomes queen, this bee will wait for around one week before heading out of the hive for the first and only time to perform her mating flight. During this flight, she’ll move among the drones who will take turns mating with her. Since she’s able to store sperm in her body, the queen only needs to do this once to produce viable eggs for the rest of her life.

The queen is typically the largest bee in the colony and she also lives for the longest time. Where workers and drones only live for between four and eight weeks, a healthy queen could live for as long as three years.

What Happens If You Kill A Queen Bee?

Without a queen, a honey bee colony would not survive because there are no other females capable of reproducing. It’s important to keep in mind that the queen released pheromones that control the behavior of the other bees in her colony.

When she dies, these hormone levels drop and this sends an alert to the worker bees. They know it is now time to raise a new queen and they’ll select a number of eggs to raise as a virgin queen. Scientists are still unsure how the bees choose between eggs.

Once the eggs are selected and they have hatched, the larvae are fed exclusively on a diet of royal jelly which causes their reproductive systems to develop. After the larval stage, the individuals are capped in honeycomb cells where they will develop into adults.

Then it’s a race against one another to become the new queen and the sisters will chew their way out of their capped cells ready to fight one another to the death to claim the throne.

The eggs take around three days to hatch and the larvae can take up to 15 days to develop into adults. So, the entire process can take a little over two weeks. During this time, the colony is without a queen but in many cases, this isn’t a huge problem.

So, if you’ve accidentally stepped on a queen or you’re a beekeeper who’s had a nasty accident with your queen, then try not to worry too much.

Will Killing The Queen Bee Kill The Entire Colony?

The queen bee is the most important member of the colony because, without her, no new bees would be born. This is why the workers work so hard to raise a new queen once the old one has died.

One of the biggest problems for new beekeepers comes when the queen dies as the colony often isn’t well-established enough to survive. Without new eggs being laid, it’s simply a case of waiting for each of the workers and drones to die which usually takes between four and six weeks. In cases where the colony is small in numbers or has weaknesses such as diseases, there’s a good chance that the loss of the queen will finish off the whole colony.

But the good news is that most honey bee colonies are very well established and have incredibly high numbers. A well-established hive can have upwards of 60,000 members and while this number may drop during the period of time without the queen, there are usually more than enough bees to keep the colony going until the new queen is raised.

If you have a honey bee nest in your garden and think that killing the queen will solve the problem, this probably isn’t going to be the most reliable method. However, I have several guides on how to get rid of bees naturally which will be much more effective.

Final Thoughts

Honey bee colonies are some of the most well-structured and hardy things in nature. They consist of thousands of individual bees who work together to ensure the survival of their hive.

The queen is the only one that can lay eggs so it’s her responsibility to keep the colony going by adding new members. However, when she dies, no more eggs can be produced.

But there is some good news. If you’ve accidentally killed a queen bee, there will be a hum of activity within the hive as the workers raise a new queen. During this time, the colony will be without a queen for a couple of weeks but as long as it’s healthy and there are enough bees, it should continue to thrive.